This is the only known zitan snuff bottle. Zitan was the most prized of Chinese woods since the Ming dynasty, and one which was collected by order of the Qing Court for the making of furniture and other objects. Archival records note that wood was stored from the Ming dynasty for later use.
Zitan inlaid with silver wire was favored by the Qianlong emperor for stands made for objects in his collection, and is usually associated with items inscribed with his poems. Turquoise inlay also appears on zitan objects made for Imperial use. For examples of silver-inlaid zitan produced at the palace workshops and in a similar style including the complex double bending of curved lines and narrow, double lines, see Collected Chinese Works of Art, Vol. 6, nos. 250-51. For a zitan box containing six Imperial jade thumb rings from the Avery Brundage Collection in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, see "Chinese Jade Throughout the Ages: A Definitive Catalogue," Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, 1973-75, no. 479. For other examples of inlaid silver on zitan, see Masterworks of Chinese Jade in the National Palace Museum, (supplement), no. 9, where the character jian is flanked by chi dragons; and a screen inlaid with a Qianlong Imperial poem published in Masterworks of Chinese Jade in the National Palace Museum, no. 9.
This bottle is also unique for its mark. The Qianlong yujian mark on the base is otherwise unrecorded on snuff bottles and implies that the object was personally examined and approved by the emperor for his own use or as a specific gift for another person. This mark was used, however, on a series of zitan wood stands produced for pieces in the Imperial collection during the Qianlong reign (see, for instance, fig. 1 for an Imperial zitan wood stand now in a private collection made for a Zhou-dynasty vessel formerly in the Imperial collection, which is also marked Qianlong yujian (fig. 2).
The attribution of this bottle to the Palace workshops is supported by the materials, style and quality of execution and Imperial mark.